Caragiulo Won't Seek Re-Election, Ziegler Files



After seven years serving in city or county government, Sarasota County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo on Monday announced he would not seek re-election. Instead, he endorsed Sarasota County’s Republican State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, so far the only candidate to file for the seat.

Caragiulo says that he is not seeking another term largely because of the demands of elected office on his family. Caragiulo first was elected to the Sarasota City Commission in 2011, then ran successfully for the county in 2014. “I went from being at a City Commission meeting at 11 o’clock on a Monday night to going to a county commission meeting to be sworn in on a Tuesday morning,” he said. “And believe me it’s come with a cost. My girls are 9 and 11 years old and I can’t go forward and block off the next five years.” When his term ends in November, Caragiulo will most likely go back to spending more time working for his family’s restaurant group. But he also said he believes he can influence community conversation effectively at this point even without holding public office.

As for Ziegler, he says the county post wasn’t necessarily on the radar for him before Caragiulo mentioned he might retire. While his current post as a party leader involves significant partisan rhetoric, he hopes to convince voters that the public service aspect of the job will come first if he’s elected. He noted that his first major entry into the Gulf Coast political world came working for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, including providing constituent services. “For a couple years my job at the district office was to help people navigate government,” he says. 

Caragiulo says he has been speaking with Ziegler for five months about a sort of succession plan, and that if he didn’t feel confident in a candidate who could follow him to office he would likely have run for a second county commission term. “I had a pretty narrow set of parameters about who I felt would fit in to this group (the Sarasota County Commission),” he says. He likes the idea of a Sarasota County Commissioner who is raising kids in the community; Ziegler has two daughters of his own. But he also liked the idea of someone with enough political pull that he could be elected without relying heavily on outside special interest support. ”If you are not pissing your friends off in this line of work, you aren’t doing your job,” Caragiulo says.

Ziegler says he doesn’t plan to bring partisanship too heavily into the county commission. He does plan to retain his position with the Republican Party of Florida, and notes county chairman Joe Gruters has been able to continue his party responsibilities since being elected to state House in 2016. But he says Caragiulo already has stressed the need to put politics aside when dealing with constituent concerns. “Potholes don’t have party affiliation,” Ziegler says.

Ziegler also happens to be a spouse of another elected official; wife Bridget Ziegler serves on the Sarasota County School Board. But he doesn’t expect that to create any conflict. “My wife is her own person,” he says. “There is not too much crossover. These are independent boards and jurisdictions and priorities.”

If needed, a primary for Sarasota County Commission District 2 is scheduled for Aug. 28, with the general election scheduled for Nov. 6.

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